Want to comfort and celebrate your child losing baby teeth with a memorable tooth fairy tradition? Well, don’t tell anyone…But, since he’s a dentist, my dad knows her personally. ?
I’m here to fill you in on the best ways to celebrate the tooth fairy, plus what she’s paying out these days and how to get her to email your child a personal congratulations on losing a tooth.
(Want us to send your child an email from the tooth fairy? You can skip to the section on how to write a tooth fairy letter, or just fill out the form right here.)
Don’t forget, National Tooth Fairy Day is August 22!
Disclosure:Ask the Dentist is supported by readers. If you use one of the links below and buy something, Ask the Dentist makes a little bit of money at no additional cost to you. I rigorously research, test, and use thousands of products every year, but recommend only a small fraction of these. I only promote products that I truly feel will be valuable to you in improving your oral health.
When the Tooth Fairy is Your Dentist Dad
The tooth fairy remains one of my most vivid memories from childhood. Perhaps having a father as a dentist will do that.
When I was seven years old, I accidentally swallowed a loose tooth during a baseball game. I was devastated that the tooth fairy wouldn’t be able to come. My parents acted disappointed along with me.
Yet, lo and behold, that night, she did come. The next morning, I woke up to a hand-written note explaining that she had flown down my mouth to retrieve the tooth. This magical visitor warned me to be more careful next time, as it was quite the ordeal for her and she had many other children to visit that night.
But this was all over 20 years ago. As I prepare to carry on the tradition with my own daughter, I wanted to find out—what’s changed? What hasn’t? What does playing the tooth fairy for my child look like in 2019?
And, to be honest, I had some reservations about “lying” to our daughter. Personally, I was devastated when I learned that Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy weren’t real at the ripe old age of 10 (I know, I know).
What does a tooth fairy do?
First, a child loses a baby tooth and places it under their pillow or on their nightstand. The tooth fairy visits while the child sleeps, taking the tooth and exchanging it with a coin, a note or receipt, or a few dollars.
But is that all the tooth fairy does?
I’ll be honest…Even though I had happy memories of this mystical experience from childhood, I questioned whether I wanted to carry on the tradition with my child. Isn’t it lying? And isn’t it a bizarre thing to be exchanging old body parts for money?
But the more I learned, the more I realized that the tooth fairy is actually a crucial part of a child’s development during what can be a scary time.
Perhaps that explains why the origins of the tooth fairy extend hundreds of years back. Some report the Tooth Fairy showing up in print as far back as 1927, and perhaps as far back as the beginning of human history.
According to Michael Higston, a reporter from Salon, “Every recorded human culture has some kind of tradition surrounding the disposal of a child’s lost baby teeth.”
Here are a couple stories shared with me in a Facebook group of fun tooth fairy experiences:
“I didn’t grow up in the U.S. and there’s no tooth fairy where I come from. You sing a song for the mouse to take your tooth and bring you a nice, shiny one instead and throw it on the roof. That’s what I’ve been doing with my kids. Nowadays they ask why the tooth fairy doesn’t come to our house.”
“Our tooth fairy is named Lucinda. She’s a good fairy, but she’s a bit absent-minded, as fairies tend to be. Sometimes she’d lose her way and may take a few days to get here; sometimes she’d leave a coin but forgets to take the tooth. Last night she took only 1 of the 2 teeth under the pillow but left a few gold coins. We talk about Lucinda’s antics endearingly. We think she is Lucinda in Ella Enchanted and we think she will come back for the tooth she absent-mindedly left behind last night.”
To Provide Comfort in Pain & Fear
The tooth fairy myth offers comfort during this strange and uncomfortable time, and provides magic and even meaning for children in a developmentally appropriate way.
Losing a tooth can be quite scary, especially for younger children.
This is something I had forgotten as an adult—but there’s the anxiety of the long period where you have a wiggly tooth and you’re waiting for it to come out. I remember refusing to let anybody touch by wiggly tooth, even as my parents begged me to let them just take it out—it got so loose that it was actually leaning to one side!
I was protective of the tooth, anxious about the pain, and unsure of what it would be like to lose it. Once the tooth did come out (my dad had to pull it out), there was pain and blood.
The tooth fairy is the celebration of a milestone as well as comfort to children through what can be a scary or uncomfortable transition. It’s traumatic for a child to lose a body part, especially for the first time!
To Celebrate and Motivate
And for other kids who aren’t afraid, losing a tooth is something to celebrate. The tooth fairy marks the occasion for both parents and kids. Who could complain about adding a little magic to a child’s life?
Some tooth fairies leave a note along with money to praise the child for good dental hygiene habits and oral health. This can be extremely motivating for a child and provides motivation to brush and floss.
What does the tooth fairy look like?
Depending on where you live, the tooth fairy might not be a “fairy” at all. Children’s teeth are taken night after night by mice, tissues, and even trees. We share some stories from around the world in the next section, but here’s a fun map of a few of the ways the tooth fairy is depicted.
Ask your child! “What do YOU think she looks like?” Guaranteed, you’ll get an interesting answer!
Tooth Fairy Stories & Traditions Around the World
Since nearly every culture in the world marks the loss of baby teeth in different ways, I searched for what this looks like in countries around the globe.
In Spanish-speaking countries, France, as well as Belgium, children leave their lost teeth under their pillow for a little mouse. The American tooth fairy is not dissimilar from el Ratóncito Pérez. This mouse collects the tooth in exchange for a coin, similar to the tooth fairy.
In many Asian countries—including India, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam—children throw their lost tooth on the roof or bury it, depending on whether the lost tooth came from the upper or lower jaw.
Hence the title of this book, which details traditions from all over the world when children lose a tooth: Throw Your Tooth on the Roof.
Here are some of the ways the “tooth fairy” celebrates lost baby teeth in various countries, quoted from Throw Your Tooth on the Roof:
United States/Canada: We celebrate with the tooth fairy, who visits during the night to pay us a few dollars for losing a tooth. Sometimes, she leaves a note!
Mexico: “I leave my tooth in a box on the bedside table in hopes that El Ratón, the magic mouse, will take my tooth and bring me some money. He leaves more money for a front tooth.”
Navajo: “My mother saves my tooth until my mouth stops hurting. We take my tooth to the southeast, away from our house. We bury the tooth on the east side of a healthy young sagebrush, rabbitbrush or pinyon tree because we believe that east is the direction associated with childhood.”
Yellowknife Déné: My mother or grandmother takes my tooth and puts it in a tree and then my family dances around it. This makes certain that my new tooth will grow in as straight as a tree.
Central America & the Caribbean
Costa Rica: “My mother takes my tooth and has it plated with gold and made into an earring for me to wear.”
Dominican Republic: “I throw my tooth on the roof of my house so a mouse can come take it away and bring me a better one. Sometimes I get money when I do this.”
El Salvador: “I put my tooth under my pillow. My father says that during the night a rabbit will come. It will take my tooth and leave me some money.”
Guatemala: “I put my tooth under my pillow and wait for El Ratéon to leave me some money.”
Argentina: “I put my tooth in a glass of water. During the night a little mouse called el Ratóncito will come and drink all the water, take my tooth, and leave me some coins or candy in the empty glass.”
Brazil: “I throw my tooth outside and say this poem: Lovely birds, dear birds, take away this tooth of mine and bring another one to me.” The birds only take clean teeth so I must brush my teeth every day.”
Colombia: “I put my tooth under my pillow and wait for a mouse called El Ratón Miguelito to take my tooth and leave money in its place.”
Chile: “I give my tooth to my mother. She will have it made into a charm, set in gold or silver, so I can wear it as a necklace or an earring.”
Venezuela: “I put my tooth under my pillow. While I am asleep, a mouse will take the tooth and bring me some coins.”
Turkey: “If my parents want me to grow up to graduate from school, they might bury my tooth in the garden of the university. If they hope I will become a doctor, they bury it in the garden of a hospital, or they bury it in a soccer field so I will be a good soccer player.”
Denmark: “I put my tooth under my pillow at night and wait for the tooth fairy called Tand Feen to take my tooth and leave me some money.”
England: “When I go to sleep, I put my tooth under my pillow and wait for the Tooth Fairy to come.”
France: “I put my tooth under my pillow. A mouse, La Petite Souris, will come to take it and leave a gift for me.”
Sweden: “I put my tooth in a glass of water. In the morning my tooth will be gone and a coin will be in the glass.”
Cameroon: “I throw my tooth over the roof, shouting, “Take this bad tooth and bring me a new one.” Then I hop around my house on one foot and everyone laughs.”
Egypt: “I wrap my tooth in some cotton or a tissue and take it outside. I say, “Shining sun, shining sun, take this buffalo’s tooth and bring me a bride’s tooth.” Then I throw the tooth high up, at the eye of the sun. (The Arabic word for bride is aroussa, which also means a candy or sweet.)”
Mali: “I throw my tooth in the chicken coop. The next day I might find a big fat hen in the coop and my mother will make chicken soup.”
Nigeria: “I hold my tooth in my fist with eight stones to make a total of nine (a girl will hold six stones and her tooth to make seven). Next, I close my eyes, say my name out loud, count to the number in my fist, and say, “Oh, I want my tooth back!” Then I throw them and run away. It is very important to run away.”
South Africa: “I leave my tooth in a slipper in my room. Tonight a mouse will come, take my tooth, and leave me a gift. My sister is afraid of mice so she left her slipper outside her door. The mouse left her a present anyway.”
China: “I put my upper tooth at the foot of my bed and the bottom tooth on the roof. My parents say that it will make my new tooth grow in faster.”
Kazakhstan: “I drop my tooth under the bathtub and say, “Mouse, mouse, bring me a new tooth, please.” We don’t have any mice in our apartment but I do it anyway.”
Kyrgyzstan: “I roll my tooth in bread and give it to an animal, preferably to a mouse because they have healthy sharp white teeth that grow quickly. If I feed it to a dog, I might get ugly yellow dog teeth.”
Russia: “My mother said to put my tooth in a mouse hole in the ground.”
Lithuania: “I keep my tooth as a keepsake.”
India: “I throw my tooth on the roof and ask the sparrow to bring me a new one.”
Sri Lanka: “I close my eyes and say, “Squirrel, squirrel, take this tooth and give me a new one.” Then I throw the tooth on the roof and run into the house without looking.”
Philippines: “I hide my tooth in a special place and make a wish. A year later, if I can still find my tooth, I can make another wish.”
Australia & New Zealand
Aboriginal Australians: “My family helps me put my tooth inside the shoot of a pandanus plant so that when the pandanus grows into a tree, my tooth will grow too. There are spirits in the pandanus leaves that will look after me while my tooth is growing.”
Australia: “I put my tooth under my pillow and wait for the Tooth Fairy to take my tooth and bring me some money.”
New Zealand-Maori: “I put my tooth under my pillow. My parents will collect the tooth and give me a small gift. Then they will throw my tooth into the mighty river, the Waikato. My tribe is named after the river.”
Want to see more countries and beautiful illustrations from these stories and more? I highly recommend sharing Throw Your Tooth on the Roof with your child!
8 of Our Favorite Tooth Fairy Ideas to Celebrate Losing Baby Teeth
1. Use foreign currency.
A coin from Canada or Mexico could indicate where the Tooth Fairy’s last visit was, and maybe spur a fun conversation for a kid who loves travel or geography!
2. Give a toy or book instead of money.
You know your kid best—and hey, wouldn’t it be fun to get to be Santa more than once a year?
I also love this toothbrush to encourage fun toothbrushing time, if you’d like to get a more dental-specific gift.
3. Use Sacagawea coins for added whimsy.
Go to the bank and stock up with a roll of gold Sacagawea coins. A $1 coin costs $1 and you can get them at the bank. They’re legal tender!
There are 20 primary teeth, so get 20 coins if you don’t want to make a second trip to the bank.
4. Have the tooth fairy send your child a gift.
Gift a tooth pillow or a fun monster pillow with a tooth fairy receipt notepad. I love these for anyone worried their child will recognize their handwriting but who still wants to leave a note! Plus, it comes from the tooth fairy herself.
Have a more tech-loving child? Especially as your little one loses baby teeth and is learning to read, we’d love to send them a personalized email from the tooth fairy.
All you have to do is click the button below and enter your email, name, and child’s name.
5. Use a printed tooth chart.
Print out a chart to let your child see their tooth losing progress. This lets them take an active part in their mouth.
When kids do this, they take care of their teeth for life, so it’s much more than just a fun tradition!
6. Write down how it fell out in a little journal.
These stories are fun! Snap a photo of your child for the baby book for memories they’ll one day be able to share with their children.
7. Share the reality of why the good fairy is a celebrated fictional character.
For parents like me who are worried about “lying” to their children, check out this book which was recommended to me by several moms: The (Wonderful) Truth About Santa.
One reviewer put it best:
“Miraculously, this book tells the real truth about Santa Claus in a way that makes it even more joyous and beautiful. If you have young children and celebrate this aspect of Christmas, you need this book at some point.
“If you’d rather not deceive your children about the reality of Santa, you can begin reading this book to them now. If you prefer to take the “Santa is real (and literal)” approach, this book can help you explain it to them once they discover the truth.”
8. Go all out with the fairy experience.
Amazon sells pixie or fairy dust that you can sprinkle on the money left by the bedside, around the house or, if you really want to go all out, you can sprinkle the dust outside the window and down the street!
Whatever your particular brand of whimsy, leaving “evidence” of the tooth fairy’s visit can help create a magical and exciting experience.
How much does the tooth fairy leave these days?
Ever wondered what the going rate is for the Tooth Fairy? We decided to run a tooth fairy poll of over 1700 US parents and find out…
Here’s a map of what we found. Scroll below to see the chart by state!
|District of Columbia||3.71|
How to Write a Tooth Fairy Letter
There WILL be a time when you are busy and forget…so tell the kids you have to email the fairy for a tooth pick up. That way, they know to blame you for forgetting to notify the tooth fairy instead of the fairy for having fallible magic.
If you’d like to send us an email, we have a partnership with the Tooth Fairy herself and will respond to your child! Just click the button below to enter your information.
Have a forgetful Tooth Fairy in your house? You’ll want to hang on to this email address so you’ll be able to send a note to her supervisor and act just as disappointed along with your child. (You’ll even be able to respond to the tooth fairy’s email here at Ask the Dentist!)
The tooth fairy also sometimes leaves notes in tiny cursive, written with a sparkly purple gel pen. The notes can answer anything! Think about these options:
- Questions left by the kids (Where do you live? How old are you?)
- Comments on how long it had been since she has visited
- Plights about how tough it was to get to our house on a windy night
- How excited the tooth fairy was to see a clean room
If you love printables and creative giveaways as much as me, you’ll love these resources for celebrating the tooth fairy:
Scholastic’s Letter to the Tooth Fairy — Help your child write a letter to the fairy about their lost tooth experience and teach them good vocabulary!
Party with Unicorn’s Printables — From a tooth fairy certificate in pink or blue, to a printable door hanger, to a box to store a lost tooth, these free printables are a ton of fun.
Party with Unicorn’s Tooth Fairy Coloring Pages — Got a little one who can’t get enough of creating art? These sweet coloring pages are perfect for celebrating a visit from the good fairy.
Momdot’s Tooth Fairy Receipt — Train ‘em young to keep those receipts! ? Seriously, though, your kid may love a personalized reminder of the tooth they lost.
Tooth Fairy Pressed Penny — No printer? Want a more tangible gift your child can keep through adulthood? This pressed penny keepsake is a perfect option.
The Toothless Monster — This book and plush toy have been a major hit with my little one. Not only is it useful for teaching great dental hygiene, it’s a way to comfort your child through the loss of baby teeth as they lose them with Meli the Monster.
It’s not just an outdated tradition—it’s important to help kids with a major milestone.
Some parents don’t make it so literal—they tell the kids, “we pretend the Tooth Fairy comes.” Some parents go all out. Some parents abandon the tradition altogether—who needs yet another thing? You know your kid and yourself best.
“For this kind of thing, we love to do the traditions, but I say something like “we pretend the tooth fairy comes and does x y z” instead of “the tooth fairy comes and does x y z”. It’s like a fun game we play together which kids love to do with adults, and still feels real and very magical to small children, but also doesn’t set us up for a potential moment of betrayal down the road.”
Our daughter is only two years old, so I don’t know what we’ll do for her when she loses her first tooth.
But what I do know is that the Tooth Fairy will definitely be paying her a visit—whether it’s with a toy, a note, a little Tooth Fairy door, or a shiny gold coin.
I can’t wait to give her the same magical experience that I shared with my dad when I was a kid. Yes, it’s kind of an odd tradition, but why not create a new memory with your child and have fun with it? Otherwise, it’ll be just another day.
My advice—you do you! With our daughter, we like to make every tradition our own with a little spin on it. Lower your expectations and see where it leads you.
You and your child may have funny stories to laugh about years from now!Learn More: Baby Teeth: Eruption Charts, When They Fall Out, and Proper Care